J. F. Lefevre's Revolutionary Calendar. J.F. Lefevre. Calendrier national calculé pour 30 ans et présenté à las Convention Nationale en décembre 1792. Photothèque des musées de la ville de Paris. Museum Carnavalet, Estampe Collection. Image Source: Stanford University.
Caption for the above image: On 22 September 1793, the day of the autumn equinox, the first day of the new calendar was proclaimed. At nine o’clock, eighteen minutes and thirty seconds in the morning, the sun reached its true equinox. According to revolutionary gospel, the very moment when day and night occurred in equal duration was the moment when the French people buried for good their feudal past to be reborn as free and equal citizens of the new Republic.
This post begins a series of posts in which I will be discussing how one's view of time changes one's politics. Depending on whether you take the long view or the short, your ideology varies. I will begin with another reference to a Call for Papers that I noticed from Binghamton University in New York state, where scholars are discussing 'The Revolution of Time and the Time of Revolution.' From H-Net:
Sanja Perovic explains the significance of the above image for Stanford University's Enlightenment and Revolution Image Archive. This new French Revolutionary Calendar redefined time in 1792:"What sense of time is produced through radical politics? Is the understanding of time as future part of a radical imagination? If the commitment to radical social change involves looking forward into the future, will that leave us with a sense of futurity that depends on the linearity of yesterday, today, and tomorrow? ... At its core, this conference seeks to explore the relationship between time and revolution. Time here may mean not just simple clock and calendar time but rather a way of seeing time as part of a material thread that can go this way and that, weaving together the fabric of political projects producing the world otherwise. Ultimately, the question of time fosters a critical engagement with potentiality, potency, and power; as well as with the virtual and the actual, of the to be and the always already. We seek papers, projects, and performances that add to the knowledge of time and revolution, but also ones that clear the way for new thinking, new alliances, new beings.Some possible topics might include:• Radical notions of futurity, historicity, or the expansive present.• Conceptions on the right moment of action.• The political reality of time as stasis or cyclical.• The colonial creation of universal time, and decolonial cosmologies of time.• Work on thinkers of time and revolution.• Work on potentiality, the virtual, and the actual.• Capital and labor time."
It is evident that revolutionaries regard time as linear and progressive. It is ever-new, utopian, yet stripped of all formal religious connotations associated with resurrection."This calendar, which celebrated the Revolution as a return to natural time, counted Year One from 1792 and remained in place until 11 nivôse Year XIV (1806). Its major reforms include naming the months after the seasons – Brumaire, Germinal, Thermidor – and replacing the saints of the old calendar with the names of flowers, vegetables and farming utensils. St. Francis of Assisi became the day of the pumpkin while St. Ignatius was dedicated to the aubergine.It also imposed a decimal division onto time. The weeks were divided into ten day units called the décade, while the days of the weeks were renamed Primodi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi with the tenth day, the Décadi, as the official day of rest. Ten hour days divided into one hundred minute hours were also decreed, but with little practical success. Accompanying this new division of time into twelve months of thirty days each, were the five or six days added to the end of the year. Called sanculottides these days were dedicated to the new public festivals that were to replace the rituals of the Christian Church. These include the festivals of Virtue, Genius, Work, Opinion and Reward with, every fourth year, an extra day dedicated to celebrating the Revolution itself. ... The calendar, like the Encyclopédie itself, was to serve at once as a new ordering of human knowledge as well as a new model of social relations. Its aim was a rationalization that was also a secularization of time, a way of taking the power of representation away from the king and his priests. In this image, the new calendar is heralded with scrolls describing the destruction of the old regime, a chronology of the world from creation to the end of royalty, the celebrated events of the Revolution, the division of the French territory into départements, the Copernican planetary system, astrology and a compass. The prominent place given to the description of the French forces indicates to what extent a new division of time was linked with a new sense of the French nation as defined by natural boundaries and no longer the body of the King.As depicted in this image, the revolutionary calendar stands at the heart of a Revolution that claimed to be making universal history. At the same time, the contradictions of the new calendar – is it nature or history? a patriotic memorial for the French people or a universal standard of time? – indicate the conflicting representations of time that simultaneously lay claim to represent the new public sphere."